| Michael Phelps and Hannah Stockbauer, adjudged best swimmers in Barcelona
Barcelona: Newly-crowned king of swimming Michael Phelps believes he is the man to take the sport to another level.
The American teenager was the top performer over the week-long world championships here with three individual golds, two silver and an incredible five world records.
For the first time in five years Australian superstar Ian Thorpe was pushed into a supporting role.
But the 18-year-old from Baltimore believes the rivalry that exists between him and Thorpe, 20, can spur the sport to another level.
“Everyone has their opinion on what a rivalry is. For me it’s friendly competition,” said Phelps. “It’s just that we both want the same thing, get into the pool and try and swim as fast as we can.”
And he added: “A lot can happen in swimming in the next few years and I can definitely take it to another level.”
Phelps said his goals are always set before a championship, and if he does not achieve them he is his own harshest critic.
“I have a goal for every single meet I go to and I’m very hard on myself if I don’t accomplish it.”
Despite his success here, he was not totally satisfied. “The biggest disappointment for me was going second in the 100m fly, and not being on the relay team (medley). I hate to lose, but I did do a best time so I can’t complain.”
Barcelona was the first major championships at which Phelps was expected to perform well and he rose to the occasion in style.
His only disappointment was losing the 100m fly title and the world record to fellow American Ian Crocker.
“These championships have been a good experience for me. I’ve had six events and seven including the relay (heats) and its been fun and exciting. A lot happened which will hopefully affect the next Olympic Games.”
The next round in the battle is likely to be in Thorpdeo’s stumping ground of Australia for the Qantas Skins in Sydney and the World Cup in Melbourne in November, as the duo fine-tune their Olympic repertoire.
Both Phelps and Thorpe are likely to stick with seven events in Athens.
And the American wants to do better than his fifth in the 200m fly last time when he was the youngest member of the 2000 Olympic team at 15.
His eyes are already fixed on Mark Spitz’ record 11 medals after overtaking his fellow American’s previous best of four world records in the one meet at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
“If everything goes as well as I want to and hope to, maybe that is going after Mark Spitz’ accomplishments,” he said.